First Visit by International Delegation since Ceasefire
Leaders of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), its affiliate the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), and a number of leading Egyptian journalists have concluded a two-day solidarity visit to journalists in Gaza – the first by a trade union delegation following the cease fire on 26th August. The mission was organised by the Federation of Arab Journalists (FAJ).
The joint delegation – led by IFJ president, Jim Boumelha, PJS president, Abdelnasser Najjar, the president of the Federazione Italiana de la Stampa Italiana, Franco Siddi, and PJS vice-president Nasser Abu Baker, had to wait three days in Cairo to receive clearance from the Egyptian authorities.
They then took 36 hours to travel the 200-mile distance to the Rafah border, having to negotiate passage with dozens of Egyptian military commanders of units deployed in the Sinai to combat a protracted insurrection in what has become one of the most dangerous conflict zones in the region.
The delegation was met at the Rafah border by scores of local journalists from Gaza, some political leaders, human rights activists and well-wishers. At a press conference convened at the border, members of the delegation explained the purpose of the mission, the action taken by the IFJ and its unions during the 8-week long bombing of Gaza.
“The Israeli army stopped its bombing campaign, leaving the journalists’ community and their families, as well as the whole Gaza population, in shock and awe,” said Boumelha. “Seventeen journalists died, 19 were injured, over a dozen lost their home, and 11 media organisations were directly targeted. This was a crime of horrendous proportion and there is irrefutable proof that the Israeli government has pursued a deliberate strategy of targeting media and journalists.
“It is time to make Israel accountable for its actions whenever it has been proved that it violated international law and a Security Council resolution on the protection of journalists in conflict zones.”
He said that, during the bombing, the IFJ launched a package of comprehensive measures to protect and support journalists, including:
1. Launch of humanitarian appeal
2. Safety training and Post-violence trauma workshops for journalists
3. Trade union building
The delegation met with 15 families of killed journalists to express solidarity on behalf of all the journalists’ organisations and to enquire about the urgent needs of the remaining relatives.
During the visit they also met with several wounded journalists who are being treated at Shifa hospital in Gaza.
The delegation also delivered the first tranche of financial contributions received from its appeal to the local branch of the PJS. The contributions, which included generous funds collected from journalists in the West Bank, will be used to provide support for journalists and families in need.
Many families are currently homeless and have no prospects of being housed in the near future. Through its Safety Fund, the IFJ has allocated €10,000 to the families of media workers who were killed or injured during the military offensive.
The delegation also met with a group of professional journalists to discuss their urgent needs, including the editors of several radio stations: Sawt al Nisa, Sawt al Watan, Alshab and Gaza FM, as well as Al Aqsa TV. These are all media houses that were destroyed by Israeli bombing. The media companies appealed for immediate support to replace their destroyed equipment so they can get back to work.
Most of the delegation’s focus was on the detailed investigation needed into the targeting of media by Israel during the bombing. All the findings and testimonies will be directed to the United Nations if the conditions allow.
The IFJ will be supporting the campaign by the PJS, demanding that the government of Israel pays compensation to the families of killed and injured journalists, as well as for reparations of media infrastructure and equipment destroyed or damaged.
”The PJS has set up a team to investigate and report on all Israeli crimes against Palestinian journalists and the destruction of media houses in Gaza,” said PJS president Najjar. “We will also start the process of rebuilding unity and solidarity within the journalist community in Gaza and rebuilding the PJS there.”
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 17
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries